In Leo Rosten's book, The Joys of Yiddish, he defines the Yiddish word for people from the Hungarian/Polish region of Galicia, as "Galitzianers"(McGraw Hill, 1968), pp. 122-23. In singular masculine form, one would refer to the person as a "Galitz." See, e.g., Mickey Katz' recording of "Sound Off," on the album "Borscht Riders in the Sky." He explains that in the Jewish world, Galitzianers were known for putting on airs. From my experience, that means crystal chandeliers in the front foyer and the dining room, elaborate silver collection, elaborate satin robes and fur streimels (hats) for Hasidic men from that region. Moreover, their baked noodle puddings ("kugels") were sweet and moist, in stark contrast to Russians and "Litvaks" (Lithuanian) Jews who preferred a plan potato kugel for the Sabbath meal and formal, but less dressy clothing and furnishings. When my contemporary, who studied at the Mir Yeshiva branch in New York, was going on blind dates with girls from Galitzianer heritage, his roommate would ask, "seen any good chandeliers?"

So I've wondered if the word "glitz" or "glitzy" has any linguistic connection to "Galitz" because, after all, if a Galitz owned anything, it had to be glitzy. My 1964 Webster's Unabridged Dictionary doesn't have either word. Dictionary.com says it is slang of relatively recent vintage, ca. 1970-1975 (a surprise to me -- I thought it was older), and its source may be a combination of "glitter" and "Ritz." It also points to the word "glitzy" as its source, that word having come into use during the 1960s and likely a Yiddish variation of the German word "glitzen" (meaning "glitter").

It is hard for me to believe that, at least in Yiddish, the word "glitzy" was invented within my lifetime. Admittedly, it does not appear in Rosten's 1968 edition of Joys of Yiddish, and I haven't checked is 21st century update. To me, "glitzy" and "Galitz" are a natural pair. Does any authority recognize a legitimate linguistic connection between these words, other than coincidence? Can somebody point me to the first recorded use of the word "glitzy" in either the Yiddish or English vernacular?

  • Interesting question. Etymonline broadly agrees with your Dictionary.com cite, that it's a Yiddish word derived from the German "glitzen". I also learned, to my surprise, than glitz is actually a backformation of glitzy. I would have expected the latter to be a standard derivation of the former, and for glitz to have predated glitzy. – Dan Bron Jun 14 '16 at 22:00
  • @DanBron: There was a Ronald Tavel off-Broadway play Gorilla Queen from 1967 where the singing and dancing gorilla chorus is called "Glitz Ionas" or "Glitzes" for short. I cannot find an earlier English use of glitzy, but perhaps they are unrelated – Henry Jun 14 '16 at 22:22
  • @Henry I got the claim that glitz is a backformation from glitzy from Etymonline, but etymology is as often as not a game of chance, and your 1967 attestation predates their 1977 origin by a decade. – Dan Bron Jun 14 '16 at 23:57
  • Loan words from whatever source stick around when they sound right for the meaning they've acquired -- or when they acquire a meaning that feels right for their sound. GL- words are a good example; they have one set of words that refers to sparkly things (similar to the Color/Eye meaning of BL- words), and a set that refers to things that stick together (similar to the meaning of KL- words). The first set is the one involved in glitzy, glisten, and glitter. – jlawler Jun 16 '16 at 2:05

glitz/glitzy entered English via Yiddish, but has nothing to do with Galicia.

Like much of the Yiddish lexicon they have close cousins in standard German and German dialects and more distant cousins in modern English. (English cognates are glitter and glisten.)

  • Why are you certain? – Bruce James Jun 16 '16 at 17:34
  • 3
    A cousin of glitzy is present across Germanic languages, the Old High German (8th to 11th century) was glizzan, ie it was part of Yiddish when Yiddish was born and thus before Yiddish speakers ever migrated East and for that matter before Galicia existed (ca 15th century). – Adam Bittlingmayer Jun 16 '16 at 21:23
  • @BruceJames - »Glitnir (glit, nitor, splendor, OHG. kliz, E. shining) is the hall of Forseti, the Norse god of law and justice, and the seat of justice amongst gods and men« - as you can see, glit meaning 'shining' is as old as Norse Eddic mythology. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glitnir – Yellow Sky Jun 17 '16 at 11:31

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